We’re turning into attention junkies, looking for our next big hit.

We’re now well on the way to being blasé about the term gamification. It’s certainly grabbed peoples attention in a way the term Serious Game never did. I’m glad to see some more balanced discussions about the topic too but there’s still so much that concerns me and so I believe its important to continue the dialogue (beyond purely commercial motivations) and look at the psychology behind the idea. So I thought I’d re-post my response to a recent blog on the power of Gamification, feel free to continue the dialogue, but I certainly won’t be awarding you any points for doing so 😉

Gamification is something that fascinates and concerns me right now. As a psychologist I see where people are going it but it also worries me as gamification is a misunderstanding of psychology. When you really look into the techniques you’ll see they offer short term reinforcement of behaviour and not long term change, like you say they’re not providing real world benefit. But in my opinion it’s a lazy form of driving participation in most instances as it appeals to short term and shallow desires such as being top of a leader board.

Leaderboards and badges only appeal to people who care about those things. They’ve been used to motivate sales teams for donkeys years and there’s a reason it’s pretty much limited to sales – they’re driven to be the best, they are generally naturally competitive people and of course there is the financial gain at the end of the day. What’s missing from the whole industry is a true understanding of what motivates us at a deeper level. Taking the long term view, can you imagine a world where everything in life has been gamified? I shudder to think of it. Just think of loyalty cards, now think how many you have in your wallet. Too many and they start lose value, you get rid of them, you just don’t have enough time or money to spend doing the things they want you to do to get the rewards. The same will happen with gamification. There will be too many badges and it will become too much like hard work to monitor and keep up. There is little real value attached to most gamification systems and therefore no real reason why you should continue.

In relation to your example (lovely pic btw!) you have to ask yourself what is the value of the extra participation; were people adding likes and comments to gain more badges for themselves, or were they doing it to really share their views? Is participation for the sake of it good enough? To some it might not matter, they might just be interested in being popular, but to me it’s not enough. Will you now post to the forum that gives you the most likes and views and ignore the other? I worry that people will take this action and take the easy route, the one that makes us feel wanted and popular. But we should also ask ourselves about the types of people who use each of those communities are they more likely to desire badges, leadership, reward. What is the difference between gamified communities and others that join together purely because of a shared passion or interest << something that’s certainly not new!

People don’t need badges, points, likes etc to connect and feel rewarded. The continued addition of these features to our online interactions just devalues the interaction imho.

We’re turning into attention junkies, looking for our next big hit.

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